The Aletta Jacobs Prize 2016 has been awarded to Petra Stienen. She has been awarded this prize for her gift in using her work to represent and transmit the voices of women who would otherwise not be heard. She has also successfully placed the topic of the position of women within a modern and international context. The Prize will be awarded on 7 March 2016 by the Rector Magnificus of the University of Groningen, Elmer Sterken. The announcement of the Prize coincides with the day in 1919 on which Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands signed the law that granted women full suffrage.
According to the chair of the jury, Professor Janka Stoker, Stienen has the ability to create space for the different voices of women and men in the Netherlands and the Arab world . Stienen’s personal journey, from the Donderberg in Roermond via the Arab world towards literature and politics, is a source of inspiration for women in the Netherlands. The jury was impressed with her expertise, her diplomatic and journalistic qualities, her keen interest in the position of women and her ability to create a podium for the perspective of others.
Petra Stienen was born in Roermond on 8 May 1965. She grew up in a working-class family, attended the Bisschoppelijk College Schönde in Roermond, became fascinated with Islam and figured out that if she wanted to read the Koran, she would have to learn Arabic. She went on to study Arabic at Leiden University, where her interest shifted to the context of the language: the Arab world. Between 1995 and 2004 she worked as a human rights diplomat for the Dutch embassies in Egypt and Syria. Back in the Netherlands she wanted to open a door between the West and the Arab world. She made frequent appearances in news programmes around the time of the protests in the Arab world in 2011. This led on 24 February 2012 to her being awarded the Woman in the Media Award 2011 at the WOMENInc Festival. She wrote a column for the Opzij magazine and continues to publish in newspapers such as the NRC Handelsblad and De Volkskrant.
Petra Stienen has written a number of books, including Dromen van een Arabische Lente.
Een Nederlandse diplomate in het Midden-Oosten (2008) (Dreams of an Arabic Spring.
A Dutch Diplomat in the Middle East
), Het andere Arabische geluid.
Een nieuwe toekomst voor het Midden-Oosten? (2012) (The Other Arabic Voice. A New Future for the Middle East?) and Terug naar de Dondersberg: portret van een wereldwijk (2015) (Back to the Dondersberg: Portrait of a Global Neighbourhood).
She frequently appears as a speaker, lecturing on topics such as working and living in the Arab world, how the Netherlands is perceived abroad, personal leadership, integration issues, and radicalization. She is involved as a presenter in KRACHT on Tour, an initiative by Minister of Education, Culture and Science Mariëtte Bussemaker that aims to help women access the opportunities available to them to make even better use of their talents and become financially independent. Stienen is a member of the D66 fraction of the First Chamber.
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